Drowning In Light
n 1996, Yale economist William D. Nordhaus calculated that the average citizen of Babylon would have had to work a total of 41 hours to buy enough lamp oil to equal a 75-watt light bulb burning for one hour. At the time of the American Revolution, a colonial would have been able to purchase the same amount of light, in the form of candles, for about five hour’s worth of work. And by 1992, the average American, using compact fluorescents, could earn the same amount of light in less than one second. That sounds like a great deal. Except for one thing: We treat light like a drug whose price is spiraling toward zero.[more inside]
What City Skies Would Look Like Without Light Pollution. (slAtlanticphotoblog)
A collection of timelapse night photographs, beautifully edited to demonstrate light pollution, complete with Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," ISS, the Milky Way and a lot of spendy Nikon cameras.
"The arc of the Milky Way seen from a truly dark location is part of our planet's natural heritage," said Connie Walker, and astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Yet "more than one fifth of the world population, two thirds of the U.S. population and one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way." In these areas, people are effectively living in perennial moonlight. They rarely realize it because they still experience the sky to be brighter under a full moon than under new moon conditions. "Reducing the number of lights on at night could help conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health," astronomer Malcolm Smith of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. One study found an increased risk of breast cancer for women living in areas with the most light pollution (abstract). Some communities are embracing their dark skies, such as the New Zealand community of Tekapo, possibly home to first "Starlight Reserve," waiting on UNESCO's official approval. Not sure where to look in the vast night sky? Follow some guidelines, or check the view in Chile, Queensland, Australia, or Texas.
Time to turn off the lights. "Cities needlessly shine billions of dollars directly into the sky each year and, as a result, a fifth of the world's population cannot see the Milky Way. Malcolm Smith explains why a dark sky has much to offer everyone." [Via]
The clear sky clock (this one is for Boston) provides a graphical representation of seven factors that affect the clarity of stargazing: cloud cover, transparency, seeing, darkness, wind, humidity, and temperature. Once you've figured out where and when to go stargazing (probably somewhere rural) make a custom map for your location so you know what you're seeing.
"Light Pollution - and the return of the night" (more inside)
Wanted: New New York Street Lights. NYC organizes an international competition for new streetlight designs. (Those of you wishing to skip the Flash title and the framed navigation, go straight to the meat.) I have a request: lights that help minimize light pollution. (NYC Competition link via Veer Ideas.)
So maybe rolling blackouts are a good thing. "Light pollution" means we don't see the universe today that we saw it when we were kids. What's the balance between being able to see that hazy something we know as the milky way (aka "us") and safe streets, aesthetics and convenience?